Supply Chain collaboration has never been more critical. The commoditization of freight, and rise of logistics and fulfilment disruptors like Flexport and Amazon Fulfillment mean that traditional freight forwarders are feeling the pressure to evolve and find smarter ways of being competitive.
Attending a conference is a sure fire way to make connections, meet innovative thinkers and explore new ideas that can help you to compete.
As supply chain and retail industry veterans who have collectively attended hundreds of conferences here at Gravity, we’ve brainstormed and researched the best advice for making the most out of these events. Below is the ultimate 10-step guide to maximizing your next logistics conference.
How to prepare before the conference
You might think that most of the work will happen during the conference, but putting in time and effort to your conference preparation will enable you to make the most out of your attendance and achieve the highest ROI possible.
1. Set objectives.
As with most things, it’s important to know beforehand your goals.
- Are you looking for a new agent to help expand your South America customer base?
- Are you shopping for a new supply chain technology solution to help you win the new customers you’ll be pitching to meet revenue targets?
Agree on your show objectives with your team and outline them. Setting conference objectives will help you really understand the value of attending the conference and its role in helping you meet your higher business goals.
2. Get comfortable with the idea of networking – the supply chain industry is a people industry.
The growth of ecommerce and the increasing consumer demand for a seamless shopping experience has increased the pressure on all supply chain stakeholders to find better ways to work together. The supply chain industry is a people industry, and maximizing your next logistics conference means getting comfortable networking.
If you’re one of those who are apprehensive at meeting new people, Rebecca Knight of HBR discusses some ways to make networking work for you, such as taking the initiative to set one-on-one meetings instead of diving into a crowd.
3. Find out who’s going and pre-introduce yourself.A freight-forwarding conference will be full of people looking to make new connections. It can be difficult to have a meaningful, productive conversation when you’re battling for 15 minutes of someone’s time in a crowd.
Because you’re trying to gain new customers or form new partnerships, you want your conversations at the conference to be memorable. Both HubSpot and GTS suggest finding out who’s going beforehand and contacting them in advance.
Check out the list of speakers or panelists from the conference website, or request an attendees list from the show organizer and reach out with a brief message introducing yourself and asking if you can schedule in 15 minutes of their time.
Pre-introducing yourself will save you some time and effort breaking the ice with the other person.
4. Review the agenda and pick out specific booths or sessions you want to see.A logistics conference will have plenty of plenary sessions, booths and networking opportunities for its delegates. Create your own conference schedule to help you plan where you need to go. Creating this schedule will help to ensure that you are aligned with the objectives you set in step one, helping to optimize your ROI.
5. Pack appropriately.
Supply chain and logistics conferences are professional networking events, so make sure you’re geared up accordingly. Pack more than enough business cards, brochures and promotional merchandise to hand out, and wear comfortable but professional clothing and shoes.
During the conference
6. Listen more, talk less to have meaningful conversations.Whether you’re looking to gain new customers or find new logistics stakeholders, you’ll gain more by asking meaningful questions than talking. Huffpost calls this ‘creating a memorable experience for your audience’, and involves asking the other person questions to get to know them better, rather than going straight to your pitch.
7. Take some time to organize your notes.During a logistics conference, you’ll make plenty of notes and conversations and receive countless business cards and brochures. Rob Stirling’s article on business.com suggests developing a system of information-gathering that will be easy for you to review when you get home. Your future self will certainly appreciate it.
8. Manage your existing connections.
You’re likely to run into someone you already know/work with at a supply chain and logistics conference. Make sure you take some time to catch up with these professional contacts. As Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School says, “good networking not only means creating new connections, it also means maintaining and strengthening existing ones.”
You never know where your next big collaboration or growth opportunity may come from.
After the conference: tying everything up nicely
9. Take action on the people, products and ideas that intrigued you.
Deborah Catalano Ruriani of inboundlogistics.com suggests taking action on all that you’ve learned from the conference when you get home, i.e. send a follow up note to all the people you connected with and do further research on the technologies or solutions that intrigued you.
Stay connected with these people and companies to stay up-to-date and continue learning from the best and brightest in the supply chain and logistics field.
10. Share your learnings with the rest of your team back home.
The supply chain industry has changed radically over the last decade. Big data, cloud technology, eCommerce and mobile has precipitated supply chain IT solutions that enable improved collaboration, real-time visibility and greater operational efficiencies borne of automation; there’s no better venue to get updated on these trends than conferences organized by trade networks such as WCA and Lognet Global.
Share what you’ve learned to your team via a quick group email, summarizing the insights and solutions worth looking into. The key to significantly growing your business could be one of the items in that email.
Happy networking, and we hope to see you in one of the upcoming logistics conferences.